Book Review: Caught in a Trap by Rick Stanley with Paul Harold (1992)

Over a number of Guinnesses as we watched the snow fall on my birthday this year, which I spent in Milwaukee helping a friend move, we exchanged book reading recommendations. I suggested Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and my friend, who is a part-time Elvis impersonator and full-time Elvis lookalike, suggested this book. When my beautiful wife and I visited Florida this spring, we went used book shopping, which is our wont, and at The Book Exchange on Northlake in West Palm Beach, the book faced out and caught my eye. So I spent ten dollars on it, because my friend really wanted me to read it.

Well, it’s not a hard read. The full title is Caught in a Trap : Elvis Presley’s Tragic Lifelong Search for Love. The introduction says the author’s goal is not to evangelize. The book is published by Word Publishing. You can guess which impulse won out.

Rick Stanley’s mother married Vernon Presley after his wife died, so the Stanley brothers are Elvis’s stepbrothers. That’s his in onto the lifestyle of Elvis, as his family moved to Graceland when Elvis mustered out of the Army in 1960. Stanley became part of Elvis’s traveling crew when he was sixteen, so he had some access.

Still, instead of a straight biography, we get an evangelist building a parable. Two brothers, one really talented and beloved, the other lower key but saved by his eventual conversion to a mid-seventies blue-jeans-and-tee-shirts denomination of Christianity. Stanley relates actual events in Elvis’s life, but he adds pop psychological interpretation to Elvis’s inner state that emphasizes his parable. He also interjects a number of biographical details from his life, which he sets up as a parallel to Elvis’s except for the love of a good Christian woman which will ultimately redeem him from the world of the entertainment industry and the drugs. The final chapter takes place after Elvis’s death, where Stanley comes out on his own as a legitimate evangelist speaker, loved by many because he used to serve the King and now serves The King.

The story and the parable and everything are an interesting read; it sounds as though the story would have made an interesting novel of some sort. Unfortunately, it’s not a good Elvis biography as the man really only plays a bit role in the greater story the author’s trying to tell.